Vladimir Mayakovsky

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By a stanza a city is blown to bits.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (19 July 1893 NS14 April 1930) was a Georgian-born Russian playwright, screenwriter and poet. A Bolshevik activist before 1917, he became the pre-eminent poet of the Russian Revolution and one of the leading literary figures of the Futurist movement.

Quotes[edit]

  • On the pavement
    of my trampled soul
    the steps of madmen
    weave the prints of rude crude words.
    • "1" (1913); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 53
  • Tramp squares with rebellious treading!
    Up heads! As proud peaks be seen!
    In the second flood we are spreading
    Every city on earth will be clean.
    • "Our March" (1917); translation from C. M. Bowra (ed.) A Book of Russian Verse (London: Macmillan, 1943) p. 125
  • Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. lt must be spread everywhere – on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers' homes.
    • "Shrine or Factory?" (1918); translation from Mikhail Anikst et al. (eds.) Soviet Commercial Design of the Twenties (New York: Abbeville Press, 1987) p. 15
  • A rhyme's
                   …
    a barrel of dynamite.
                                  A line is a fuse
                                                        that's lit.
    The line smoulders,
                                  the rhyme explodes –
    and by a stanza
                            a city
                                      is blown to bits.
    • "A Conversation with the Inspector of Taxes about Poetry" (1926); translation from Chris Jenks Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1995) pp. 86-7
  • I want to be understood by my country,
    but if I fail to be understood –
    what then?,
    I shall pass through my native land
    to one side,
    like a shower
    of slanting rain.
    • "Back Home!", first version (1926); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 36
  • Love
             for us
                       is no paradise of arbors —
    to us
              love tells us, humming,
                                                that the stalled motor
                                                                                of the heart
    has started to work
                                 again.
    • "Letter from Paris to Comrade Kostorov on the Nature of Love" (1928); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 213
  • Agitprop
                  sticks
                            in my teeth too,
    and I'd rather
                        compose
                                       romances for you –
    more profit in it
                          and more charm.
    But I
              subdued
                             myself,
                                        setting my heel
    on the throat
                        of my own song.
    • "At the Top of My Voice" (1929-30); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) pp. 223-5
  • In parade deploying
                                  the armies of my pages,
    I shall inspect
                         the regiments in line.
    Heavy as lead,
                          my verses at attention stand,
    ready for death
                          and for immortal fame.
    • "At the Top of My Voice" (1929-30); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 227
  • Love's ship has foundered on the rocks of life.
    We're quits: stupid to draw up a list
    of mutual sorrows, hurts and pains.
  • I understand the power and the alarm of words –
    Not those that they applaud from theatre-boxes,
    but those which make coffins break from bearers
    and on their four oak legs walk right away.
    • Untitled last poem found after his death; translation from Martin Seymour-Smith Guide to Modern World Literature (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975) vol. 4, p. 235

The Cloud in Trousers (1915)[edit]

Quotations are cited from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975).

  • No gray hairs streak my soul,
    no grandfatherly fondness there!
    I shake the world with the might of my voice,
    and walk – handsome,
    twentytwoyearold.
    • Page 61.
  • If you wish,
    I shall grow irreproachably tender:
    not a man, but a cloud in trousers!
    • Page 61.
  • Hey, you!
    Heaven!
    Off with your hat!
    I am coming!

    Not a sound.

    The universe sleeps,
    its huge paw curled
    upon a star-infested ear.
    • Page 109.


Disputed[edit]

  • Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.
    • Attributed to Vladimir Mayakovsky in The Political Psyche (1993) by Andrew Samuels, p. 9; attributed to Bertolt Brecht in Paulo Freire : A Critical Encounter (1993) by Peter McLaren and Peter Leonard, p. 80
    • Variant translation: Art is not a mirror held up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.

Quotes about Mayakovsky[edit]

  • He stands with one foot on Mont Blanc and with the other on the Elbrus. His voice out-thunders thunder. What is the wonder that…the proportions of earthly things vanish and that no difference is left between the small and the great?…No doubt this hyperbolic style reflects in some measure the frenzy of our time. But this does not provide it with an overall artistic justification. It is impossible to out-clamour war and revolution, but it is easy to get hoarse in the attempt.
    • Leon Trotsky Literature and Revolution (1925); translation from Isaac Deutscher The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921-1929 (London: Verso, 2003) p. 157
  • He was perhaps the only tolerable propaganda poet of all time: he meant it, and the energy he put into it was, as is frequently said, demonic.
    • Martin Seymour-Smith Guide to Modern World Literature (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975) vol. 4, p. 234
  • Incomprehensible rubbish.
    • Vladimir Ilyich Lenin; translation from Margaret Drabble (ed.) The Oxford Companion to English Literature (Oxford: OUP, 1995) p. 643.
    • Of Mayaskovsky's 1920 poem, 150,000,000
  • Mayakovsky was and is the best and most talented poet of our Soviet era. Indifference to his memory and works is a crime.
    • Memorandum by Joseph Stalin; translation from Katerina Clark et al. (trans. Marian Schwartz) Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) p. 288
  • With this man, the newness of our times was climatically and uniquely in his blood. His very strangeness was one with the strangeness of the age, an age still half unrealised.
    • Boris Pasternak Safe Conduct (1931); translation from Geoffrey Grigson (ed.) The Concise Encyclopedia of Modern World Literature (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1971) p. 239.
  • You don't have to be a poet, but you do have to be a citizen. Well, Mayakovsky was not a citizen, he was a lackey, who served Stalin faithfully. He added his babble to the magnification of the immortal image of the leader and teacher.

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